Camilla reveals how her love of reading was inspired by her father Major Bruce Shand – who was the ‘best read man she’s come across’ – in a new clip for her online book club
- Duchess of Cornwall revealed how her love of books was inspired by her father
- Said Major Bruce Shand was the ‘best read man she’s come across, anywhere’
- The duchess, 73, based at Highgrove House, said her father ‘devoured books’
The Duchess of Cornwall has revealed how her love of books was inspired by her father, Major Bruce Shand, who was the ‘best read man she’s come across, anywhere’.
Camilla, in a video recorded for her online book club The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room, said her father, a decorated officer who fought with the 12th Lancers, ‘devoured books’.
The duchess, 73, thought to currently be based at the Prince of Wales’ country home, Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, explained that being read to in her early childhood sparked her lifelong love of reading.
The footage, released on Instagram, included a black and white image of Camilla’s father as a young man.
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The Duchess of Cornwall (pictured) has revealed how her love of books was inspired by her father, Major Bruce Shand, who was the ‘best read man she’s come across, anywhere’
Camilla, in a video recorded for her online book club The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room, said her father, pictured as a young man, ‘devoured books’
Camilla said: ‘I think it certainly came from my father, he was probably the best read man I’ve come across, anywhere. I mean, he devoured books.
‘And so he read to us, as children. He chose the books and we listened. And I think… the love of books was ingrained in us, because, you know, it was there from such an early age.’
Major Bruce Shand, who died in 2006 at the age of 89, was a strong source of support for Camilla, and she has previously spoken with pride of his military service.
He was awarded two Military Crosses during the Second World War and was also captured and became a prisoner of war.
The duchess has previously described him as a ‘brilliant storyteller’ who ‘read to us each night and transported us into different worlds’.
The duchess, 73, thought to currently be based at the Prince of Wales’ country home, Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, explained that being read to in her early childhood sparked her lifelong love of reading. Pictured, Camilla and her father Bruce Shand leaving Westminster Abbey, London, in 2003
How Camilla’s father Major Shand became a Second World War hero – and survived a PoW camp
The Duchess’ father, Major Bruce Shand, joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero
The Duchess’ father, Major Bruce Shand, joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero.
In 1942, already decorated with the Military Cross and bar from the early campaign in France, but by then serving in North Africa, he was praised by Churchill during a surprise morale-boosting visit by the Prime Minister.
Churchill spotted his medals and remarked: ‘You’re a very young man [to have won two medals]. How splendid. But you look so thin.’
Soon after, he was posted to the Libyan desert to face the might of Rommel’s tanks in the battle of El Alamein. Later, he described an encounter with the Germans in which his sergeant and the driver of their armoured car were both killed.
Himself already wounded, he managed to jump on to another scout car, but was once again hit.
He recalled in his memoirs, Previous Engagements: ‘Something like whiplash stung my cheek and Sergeant Francis beside me slumped to the bottom of the car with a large hole in his chest, killed instantly…
‘I do not remember hitting the ground. A buzz of German voices greeted my return to consciousness.’
Shand spent the rest of the war at Spangenburg PoW camp: ‘It wasn’t Claridge’s, but at least the reception was warming,’ he recalled. In fact, the regime was grim and the wait for release long and demoralising, though Shand sat it out with his usual stoic charm.
Major Shand seated in front of Camilla’s children, Laura and Tom Parker-Bowles, and with Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Philip and the Queen, and the wedding of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in April 2005
Major Shand was daughter Camilla’s ‘rock’ during turbulent periods in her life. Pictured, father and daughter leaving the Ritz Hotel in London in 1995
Camilla holds seven patronages related to literature, including the National Literacy Trust, and has presented the prestigious Booker Prize for a number of years.
Her first four choices for her Reading Room are Dame Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror And The Light, William Boyd’s Restless, Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak.
Last week, Camilla hailed a ‘renaissance of reading’ during the coronavirus pandemic, once people had got over the initial shock of being ‘locked down, locked up, locked in’.
The Duchess of Cornwall also admitted last month that she is an ‘entrenched technophobe’ but said she was compelled to start her online book club by ‘moving letters’ she received during the first lockdown.
The Duchess of Cornwall (pictured) last month admitted that she is an ‘entrenched technophobe’ but said she was inspired to start her online book club by ‘moving letters’ during the first lockdown
Camila revealed her motivations for launching her new virtual ‘reading room’ which has already attracted more than 30,000 literary enthusiasts to her Instagram site @duchessofcornwallreadingroom
The royal said that she felt part of a ‘universal community of reading souls’.
Writing in The Times, she added: ‘Notwithstanding my advanced age and entrenched technophobia, I thought the best place for us to meet one another might be online.’
Camilla said that at the start of the first national lockdown she compiled a list of her own favourite ‘desert island books’ which, much to her delight, opened up discussion of other literary classics with readers around the world.
She continued: ‘The most moving letters were those from people who described how books had been their lifeline.
Camilla revealed the first four personal picks for her new initiative which are The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel; Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; Restless by William Boyd; and Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice (pictured)
‘In some cases, their only company for weeks has been characters in novels. Reading was comforting for us, making us laugh, taking us on journeys that we could not undertake in the flesh and, crucially, reminding us that we are not alone.
‘We found a community in reading at a time when we were, sadly but necessarily, unable to be with those we love.’
She resolved to set up an online platform which she said ‘explores the magical world of books; the extraordinary people who write them; and the emotional, social and educational benefits of reading’.
Camilla is following in the footsteps of TV presenters Richard and Judy by launching her own book club.
A stunning portrait (pictured) of the Duchess of Cornwall was released ahead of the announcement of the royal’s Reading Room book club’s first four titles
The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room will be a ‘celebration of literature’ and, she hopes, a hub for literary communities around the world. Four of her recommended books will be unveiled each season.
Hillary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light is the conclusion to her Wolf Hall trilogy, based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, and was eight years in the making.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is set in the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast and tells a coming-of-age story through the eyes of an abandoned child. The New York Times described it as a ‘painfully beautiful’ first novel.
The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room will be a ‘celebration of literature’ and, she hopes, a hub for literary communities around the world
By contrast William Boyd’s spy story Restless explores the wartime adventures and peacetime intrigues of Russian émigré Eva Delectorskaya, who is recruited for the British Secret Service in 1939.
Lastly, The Architect’s Apprentice is described as a ‘dazzling and intricate’ tale from Elif Shafak, set in 16th Century Istanbul.
Each recommended book will be accompanied by exclusive content from the authors, as well as the duchess herself, to spark conversation and debate.
Since joining the Royal Family, Camilla has made the issue of literacy – particularly in children – one of the cornerstone of her work.
Charlie Mackesy, author and illustrator of best-seller The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, has given his support to the project (pictured during a video call with the Duchess)
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